For the most part, securing an internship or full-time job is a relatively standardized process with several similar requisite steps regardless of the company/position you’re applying to. That said, if you only follow the “standard steps” and don’t actively try to differentiate yourself, you’re reducing your chance of success. Below is my approach that ultimately resulted in offers from McKinsey & Company and other consulting firms.
- Land an interview. The most important part of this is your resume. If you do your research, you’ll find that management consultancies are looking for candidates that possess superb analytical and logical reasoning capabilities, confidence in their communication, and a proven track record of academic achievement and personal impact.
- Start networking. I took the approach of “targeted” networking several months in advance of interviews. Find one or two people at each firm that you have something in common with and reach out to them via e-mail. Your e-mail should be short, concise, and contain the following: who you are, how you got their contact information, why you chose to contact them specifically, what you hope to learn from them, and your resume. Always include information about your background in your first e-mail so that they can learn about you.
- Interview. Two major portions to the consulting interview are the behavioral and the case interview. The behavioral portion is fairly straightforward. The interviewer’s goal is to ascertain the impact you had throughout an experience, so feel free to brag a bit (in fact, this is encouraged). The second part, and usually the most challenging for candidates, is the case interview. The only way to master the skill of case interviewing is to practice, practice, and practice some more. I suggest practicing one-on-one with other candidates so that you can simulate the interview environment as closely as possible. I also suggest trying to do MBA-level cases and cases that are math intensive. By doing “harder” cases, the ones in your actual interviews will seem easier and hopefully relieve some of the pressure.
Above all, exude excitement, passion, and confidence throughout the entire process. Consulting firms are looking for people who are excited about the work they do and have a passion for problem solving. You’re going to be pushed beyond your comfort zone, so put on a smile, do your best, and maintain your composure!